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3.5 (Tsai no.41) Miao-chih

The nun Miao-chih (Marvellous Sagacity) (432-495) of Flower Garland Convent

Miao-chih's secular surname was Ts'ao, and her family was originally from Ho-nei [north of the Yellow River and the old northern capital of Lo-yang].

Of gentle and intelligent disposition, she formed her mind in accordance with the Great Conversion of Buddhism. She kept the monastic rules as carefully as though she were guarding bright pearls. Untiring in patience, she displayed no irritability with regard to worldly matters. Although faced with vexations, she never had other than a pleasant countenance. Withdrawn from the world for a lifetime of study, she was nevertheless happy the whole day. She thoroughly penetrated the Buddhist teaching about the characteristics of existence, and the world honored her.

When the meditation hall was first built, Emperor Wu (440-483493) of the Ch'i dynasty by imperial order requested Miao-chih to lecture on the Shrīmālā and the Vimalakīrti. As she began and carried out the lectures, several times the emperor personally attended, asking questions without limit. Miao-chih made connections and distinctions, from the first neither losing a point nor being stumped. The emperor praised her again and again, and the four groups [monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen] very respectfully acknowledged her learning.

Wen-hsüan (460-494), the Ch'i prince of Ching-ling [and second son of Emperor Wu], marked off some land on Bell Mountain as a cemetery in which to bury those of renowned virtue.

Miao-chih died at the age of sixty-four in the second year of the chien-wu reign period (495) and was buried on the south side of Grove of Concentration Monastery on Bell Mountain. Madame Chiang, wife of Palace Attendant Wang Lun (d. 494-498) of Lang-yeh, composed the eulogy that was inscribed on the stone tablet set up on the left side of the grave mound.

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia